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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Eisteddfod party for Verdi's 200th birthday

Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi will get a 200th birthday to remember at this year’s Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod, according to an Anglesey opera star.

Tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones, from Llanbedrgoch, (pictured right) will join a stellar cast on stage at the Eisteddfod in July in a spectacular performance of Verdi’s Requiem.

Alongside Gwyn, fresh from performing in New York, will be Claire Rutter, from England, Bulgarian Mirouslava Yordanova and New Zealander Jonathan Lemalu.

They will be accompanied on the Llangollen stage by the Eisteddfod Orchestra which will be conducted by Andrew Greenwood for the Verdi 200.

Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa da Requiem is a musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral mass for four soloists, double choir and orchestra.

It was composed in memory of Italian poet and novelist Alessandro Manzoni and was first performed in Milan in May 1874.

Llangollen is familiar territory for Gwyn who says he is looking forward to returning to the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod having competed there many times in his early years.

He said: “Verdi was such a wonderful composer and his work helps showcase opera around the world. The subject matters he chose were so important and I trained as a singer so I could perform Verdi.

“There are so many wonderful pieces but Requiem has to be right up there with his best and most emotional work.

“I’m looking forward to teaming up with Claire Rutter, Mirouslava Yordanova, and Jonathan Lemalu who are all wonderful soloists in their own right.

“But being an opera singer can be a lonely existence in some ways. You can work with another performer and then perhaps not see them for five years but you remain friends.

“I’m certainly looking forward to what should be a magical night in Llangollen.

“I have just finished performing Il Trovatore in New York and Madama Butterfly with the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff.

“I’m now preparing to play Rodolfo in La Boheme in London with the English National Opera. So Llangollen will signal the start of a short summer break for me.”

Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths said: “It’s wonderful that Gwyn is taking part in what will be a wonderful night and a really impressive performance with four great soloists, a double choir and orchestra.

“The fact that he has also competed at Llangollen several times before emphasises the enduring connections of the Eisteddfod.”

Gwyn says he is on a mission to ensure as many people as possible get a true taste of opera.

He said: “there was always a stigma about opera. People thought it wasn’t for the masses and you had to be of a certain class to appreciate it.

“People are now spending less than half of what they would spend on a ticket to a Premier League football match to attend a concert and realising they actually like what they see and hear.

“The more people that have access to opera the better. As an art form it has taken me to places I would only have dreamt about, from America to Japan and the Far East and right across Europe.”

But Gwyn, who now lives in Cardiff with his American-born wife, says the Eisteddfod stage is such a magical place to perform and he is excited about returning to Llangollen.

He said: “It really is an iconic venue whether you’re an aspiring young singer or musician or a top international star. Verdi’s 200th birthday should be celebrated and we intend to make it a birthday party to remember.”

Verdi 200 is just one of a galaxy of star-studded evening concerts at this year’s Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July.

It kicks off on Tuesday, July 9, with International Children’s Day including interactive performances from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the colourful procession of the competitors to the Royal International Pavilion, led by Eisteddfod President Terry Waite, CBE, the former Archbishop’s Special Envoy and a long-time supporter.

The evening concerts start with Tuesday night’s Carnival of Nations featuring four of Wales’s finest male voice choirs, the Rhos Orpheus, Cor Godre’r Aran, Cor y Brythoniaid and the chart topping Fron Choir, performing on the 60th anniversary of the historic visit of Germany’s Oberkirchen Choir. They will be joined by the St Melodians Steel Band, from Trinidad and international competitors.

Wednesday night will feature An Evening with Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie who will be joined by the rising American tenor Noah Stewart and harpist Claire Jones, former official harpist to HRH the Prince of Wales, along with the Eisteddfod Orchestra and the Santo Tomas Choir from the Philippines, twice Choir of the World winners.

Thursday will be Strictly Cuban, a celebration of Latin dance rhythms with James and Ola Jordan and the Buena Vista Social Club while Friday will be VERDI 200.

Saturday is Choir of the World which this year will also feature Only Men Aloud, Last Choir Standing TV winners while for the first time dance will be teamed with choral music on Saturday night as the Eisteddfod’s top two dance troupes dance off for the new Dance Champions 2013 Trophy.

On Sunday keyboard king Jools Holland will bring the house and the curtain down with his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and a special guest.

The Eisteddfod runs from Tuesday, July 9, to Sunday, July 14, at the Royal International Pavilion site and as well as star-studded concerts there are top class music and dance competitions.

Tickets for this year’s concerts are available from the website at and more information is also on Facebook at

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